Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The keel has been laid for the first Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, the USS Jack H. Lucas, representing the ceremonial start of ship construction.
A keel-laying ceremony was held Thursday at Huntington Ingalls Industries' shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., with ship sponsors Ruby Lucas, widow of the ship's namesake, and philanthropist Catherine B. Reynolds etching their initials into the keel plate.
The vessel, designated DDG 125, will be the first of the Navy's new Burke-class ships in the Flight III configuration, which includes the new SPY-6 radar system and Aegis Baseline 10, both of which are said to be significant upgrades.
"The Flight III ships will bring increased lethality and warfighting capacity to our warfighters, and today's milestone is the first of many to come as we work to deliver this highly capable ship to the fleet," Capt. Seth Miller, DDG 51 class program manager at the Navy's Program Executive Office Ships, said in a statement.
The Lucas is the fifth of five Arleigh Burke's HII was contracted for in 2013. The Navy awarded the company a contract in 2017 to plan for the Lucas to be the first Flight III configured destroyer. Fabrication of the modular components of the ship started in May 2018.
The vessels are meant to have improved capability and capacity for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense. The new systems include the larger SPY-6 electronically scanned array, as well as power generation and cooling equipment to operate the radar.
"These multi-mission surface combatants serve as integral assets in global maritime security, engaging in air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense, as well as providing increased capabilities in anti-submarine warfare, command and control, and anti-surface warfare," the Navy said.
The USS Jack H. Lucas is expected to be delivered to the Navy sometime in 2024.